Expanding Riley County Police Department operations into the Pottawatomie-County portion of Manhattan and an expanding RCPD budget were at the center of a discussion between government officials at a joint city-county-county meeting Thursday.
Currently, there is an agreement stating Riley County will pay 20 percent of the RCPD budget while Manhattan will pay the other 80 percent.
Some Riley County officials believe that while they pay a smaller portion of the RCPD budget than Manhattan does, the amount they pay unfairly increases as the budget increases due to expanded operations in Pottawatomie County they don’t benefit from.
“We understand that the rule is that when RCPD was formed, they could go into the next county into a city,” Marvin Rodriguez, a commissioner for Riley County, said. “But as they (Manhattan) continue to annex into (Pottawatomie) County and they continue to tax that area for their operations in the city, they end up receiving more money which they can put into the RCPD budget. As it builds, the cost of operation of RCPD in Riley County does not increase that much, but we end up paying more of the total budget without Riley County receiving any benefit economically or for any other services.”
Rodriguez also says that on top of paying for 20 percent of the budget, Riley County also furnishes RCPD facilities.
Wynn Butler, a city commissioner for Manhattan, contends that Manhattan residents actually end up paying more than 80 percent of the budget.
“A city resident is also a county resident, so he also pays the 20 percent, which means you’re double taxed for the police department,” Butler said. “Now 75 percent of city residents make up the county, so if you do the math on the dollar, city residents are paying 96 cents on the dollar to support the police department.”
Butler says he has suggested in the past that Riley County, which includes people living in Manhattan, should be financially responsible for the RCPD.
“It boils down to the two governing bodies trying to figure out how to make their mill levy look better,” Butler said. “I’v suggested that Riley County just pay for the police department, period. It should all go on the county mill levy. Will that make a big difference to city tax payers? No, because we pay the county tax too.”
As for those who live in the Pottawatomie-County portion of Manhattan, their taxes do include funding 80 percent of the RCPD budget. Butler acknowledges that if the county were to become financially responsible for the RCPD, the city would have to come up with a way to fairly tax Pottawatomie County residents.
The joint city-county meeting also included an update from the Flint Hills Regional Council.
During this update, it was announced that Gary Stith, the director of the FHRC, will be retiring in December.
Janna Williams, a regional planner for the FHRC, will be filling in as the interim director and Justin Kuzila, a community development planner for the FHRC, will be filling in as the deputy director.
Williams and Kuzila, who represented the FHRC at the meeting, also talked about FHRC grants, studies, meetings, collaborations with various groups, comprehensive plans for various communities in the region and projects they plan to work on in the future.
For more information about the FHRC, visit flinthillsregion.org.